Communities urged to support foodbanks as demand soars as a result of coronavirus pandemic

Communities across the North-east are being urged to continue making vital donations to local foodbanks in a bid to tackle food poverty during the coronavirus pandemic.

Foodbanks are dealing with a massive surge in demand as a result of Covid-19 which has impacted significantly on their stocks of essential food and hygiene products.

North Aberdeenshire Foodbank manager, Debbie Rennie, recently advised Aberdeenshire Council that there had been a sharp rise in the number of people requiring assistance.

Part of a national network of foodbanks affiliated to the Trussell Trust, the foodbank provides food to people at crisis point by means of a referral and voucher system which can be exchanged for food parcels.

Debbie explained: “We have seen a 75% increase in the number of people fed this year compared to the same timeframe from the start of April to mid-May in 2019.

“That includes a 69% increase in adults and a staggering 90% increase in children and we are convinced this significant rise is due in large measure to the Covid-19 pandemic.”

In terms of food vouchers, 535 have been issued during the period compared with 309 last year, with the number of adults and children receiving support rising from 547 to 1,006.

Ellon and District has posted the largest increase in food support with a 540% rise, with Inverurie showing a 183% increase and Peterhead South and Cruden 148%.

Debbie said: “North Aberdeenshire Foodbank - and many other similar outlets including CFINE – continue to provide emergency food to those experiencing food poverty. Sadly, we all anticipate that this increased demand is ever only going to continue in the weeks and months to come.”

More than 90% of the food distributed by foodbanks in The Trussell Trust network is donated by the public – that’s why your food donations are absolutely vital to continue providing people with a balanced and nutritious three-day supply of food.

A typical food parcel will include items such as breakfast cereals, soup, pasta, rice and pasta sauce. Tinned items include beans, meat, vegetables and fruit, while tea or coffee, sugar, biscuits and snacks are also featured. Foodbanks can usually adapt food parcels to meet any specific dietary needs, for example, gluten-free, halal or vegetarian.

You can purchase food and leave it as a donation at the permanent collection points at any of these participating outlets: Peterhead - Morrisons, Co-op; Inverurie – Tesco, Morrisons, Poundland, McLeish’s, Royal Mail Sorting Office; Ellon - Tesco, Co-op Esslemont, Green’s; Huntly – Asda, Tesco; Kintore - Co-op, Sainbury’s; Kemnay - Co-op; Pitmedden - Co-op; Fraserburgh - Tesco, Royal Bank of Scotland.

Annette Johnston of Aberdeenshire Council’s Tackling Poverty and Inequalities Team said there is real concern that the ongoing effect of the pandemic could impact 1,000s of lives across the North-east.

She explained: “Even before the lockdown we were seeing more families having to use foodbanks and we were seeing an increase in the number of working poor.

“We have also seen a 75% increase in the number of Universal Credit applications in a five or six-week period, but the changes in the benefit thresholds mean many families are now actually worse off.

“In addition, as a result of coronavirus and the impact on a number of business sectors including retail and hospitality in particular, we are seeing a worrying trend in the number of women with children who are now requiring the support of foodbanks.

“Similarly, with the impact on the education system and the sharp reduction in job opportunities and apprenticeships for school leavers, this is likely to have a major impact on our young people.”

Aberdeenshire Council, in association with housing associations, employability services and other partners, is developing a new food strategy which will look at not only the use of foodbanks, but access to good quality affordable food, community allotments and gardens to support our communities.

A key part of the strategy comes in the form of a newly-established ‘Food Fund’ which has been launched by Aberdeenshire Council to provide vital support those most in need.

The fund will help to support those who have been identified as most in need of support and will provide targeted assistance within our communities.

Aberdeenshire Council has been allocated just over £1 million for its Food Fund from a nationwide Scottish Government allocation of £30million.

Council Leader Councillor Jim Gifford said: “The initiatives will address food insecurity for those families and households experiencing poorer socio-economic outcomes or address health barriers and enable a continued response to the needs of communities during transition and recovery.

“A cross-service group is confirming arrangements to support families currently entitled to statutory free school meal provision and those vulnerable children within early years settings to continue to access the provision across the summer holidays.

“We have also agreed to set aside a proportion of the Food Fund to support local community and third sector responses to food provision and preparation, with organisations applying for funding through our Area Managers, similar to the approach taken to distribute the Community Resilience Fund.”

Meanwhile, a host of local organisations are also continuing to help our communities at this difficult time.

Mark Morgan, European director of Stella’s Voice, said: “We are working wherever we can and providing support in whichever we can to mitigate the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic across the North-east - whether that is providing direct support to people in need of items, requiring shopping or prescription collections or supporting existing community groups and organisations so that they can continue to do what they do best.”

Sarah Bell of the Garioch Community Kitchen said the donation of high-quality produce had been very much appreciated and was helping hundreds of families at this difficult time.

She said: “We’re receiving more and more requests each week from households throughout Aberdeenshire. The Community Kitchen has supported 204 children across the Garioch area and since lockdown we have provided 2,042 bags of food to families in need including fresh fruit and vegetables.

"Working with a number of partners including Aberdeenshire Council, CFINE and Aberdeenshire North Foodbank has enabled us to deliver 400 fruit and veg bags to communities across the region from as far afield as Laurencekirk and Stonehaven in the south to Fraserburgh and Peterhead in the north.”

Lisa Duthie, Chief Executive of CFINE, said food and financial donations are equally helpful at maintaining the delivery service of essentials, explaining: “The demand for CFINE’s emergency services tripled since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, we are delivering over 1,500 emergency food parcels weekly to people facing difficulty.

"The negative impact of COVID-19 puts us all in the same storm, but not the same boat. Vulnerable individuals, families, and communities have been severely affected by these uncertain times and they need our support now more than ever to alleviate the constant pressure that they are facing.”

CFINE welcomes donations at Sainsbury's at Berryden, Asda at Middleton Park, Tesco at Torry (Aberdeen South), and Tesco at Westhill, or financial donations at www.cfine.org